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Southwest Orange Thursday, Aug. 29, 2019 5 months ago

Olympia High students complete U.S. Space and Rocket Center camp

Three local students recently completed Aviation Challenge Mach II at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama.
by: Tim Freed Managing Editor

For three Olympia High School freshmen, their dreams of flying are just taking off.

Local teens Brady Kullich, Logan Siemienas and Evan Richman recently completed Aviation Challenge Mach II at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama, this summer.

The weeklong program is designed for students interested in military aviation and the mechanics of flight and teaches them through hands-on activities and missions based on teamwork, leadership and problem-solving.

Students had a chance to learn about the principles of aviation through flight simulators and also participated in water and land survival training. 

“We did these simulations, such as a jet, so we got to fly those around every day,” Brady said. “It had a lot of buttons, so it felt really realistic. That was probably one of the highlights of it.”

The three teens wanted to try the aviation camp after doing a space camp the previous summer at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center.

“It looked like it would be a fun experience,” Brady said. “Just going into it, it looked really fun to do — and it turned out it was.”

Students ventured out into wooded areas on what they called “patrols” — missions where they all had specific objectives and jobs they had to accomplish. Brady said one of the objectives was to find a lost pilot, so the campers were given papers with several tasks to complete — almost like a scavenger hunt, he said.

Aviation Challenge has been giving youth a glimpse of military training and aviation since it was founded in 1990. Students even sleep in quarters designed to resemble military bays.

“I just went there to get the feel of it, because my dad wants me to go into the Air Force,” Logan said. “This is pretty much probably as close as you can get to actually how it would be.”

Kellie Kullich, Brady’s mother, already was familiar with the camp — she had completed the same program when she was a child.

“I wanted them to do it — it was such an awesome experience when I did it all those years ago,” Kellie said. “I knew it was something that would interest (Brady), and they did Space Academy before that and they loved that.

“They’ve got pictures of people and astronauts and different people that work with the program or with the camp that were former kid campers, and now they’ve become either major astronauts or major high-up military pilots and engineers and rocket scientists,” she said.

For Evan, the camp might have been the start of a career path.

“Going into the camp I didn’t have much of an interest, but after I left I did start to get a little bit interested,” Evan said. “I’d like to go into the Air Force and be a pilot. I think that would be pretty cool.”

Brady, Logan and Evan are considering joining the aviation camp again next summer for Mach III, which allows students to go down a zip line and use more advanced simulators.


Tim Freed is the Managing Editor for the West Orange Times & Observer and the Windermere Observer. He previously spent six years covering the Winter Park/Maitland area and is a graduate of the University of Central Florida....

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